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The Straits Times
March 18, 2023
From Charles & Keith, “bag girl” Zoe Gabriel – who sparked a spirited debate over what “luxury” truly means – is now doing collaborative work with budget carrier AirAsia.
In one 10-second video posted on Air Asia’s TikTok page, the 17-year-old is seen wearing an AirAsia cabin attendant’s uniform as she dances to Boy’s a liar Pt. 2 by PinkPantheress and Ice Spice.
The video, which appears to have been filmed on a rooftop, was posted on Friday and has already been viewed over 740,000 times.
In another TikTok video, Zoe is inside the cabin of an AirAsia plane, also dancing, this time to a sped-up version of Taylor Swift’s I Think He Knows, with a flight crew of five providing a best-effort, albeit awkward, backup.
That one has racked up over 67,000 views so far.
Zoe’s rise to online fame came after she was ridiculed by social media trolls when, in a TikTok video, she shared her excitement over a bag made by Singapore brand Charles & Keith.
The hate came after she described the bag as “luxury”.
In response, Zoe came up with another video calling out the snobbery, as she narrated the tough times she and her family, originally from the Philippines, have had to go through as they try to make a life in Singapore.
She said in that video that the bag may not seem like a luxury item to some, but it was for her, because her father put in a lot of hard work and did a lot of saving just to get it for her as a birthday gift.
Her father, a mechanical engineer, moved to Singapore in 2009. Zoe and her mother, brother and two sisters followed him a year later, and they have since settled in Yishun.
Detailing the challenges she and her family have had to overcome while living in Singapore, Zoe told The Straits Times: “Whenever we go to buy toys or food, my parents would go: ‘Oh, maybe next time’ or ‘Maybe if you save your own money, you can get your own’.”
Her videos have spread far and wide, and most who have seen them have enthusiastically rallied behind her.
Her experience provoked a debate about what “luxury” really means, and a call among Singaporeans to take pride in their homegrown brands.
There has been no announcement of an official collaboration between Zoe and AirAsia.
Zoe earlier teased that she would be on a “really big and exciting project” soon.
The response to her AirAsia videos has been mostly positive.
“Waaa, she made it!! Mean ppl never win!!” said TikTok user Debbie.
Another commenter, Si Paling Transportasi Umum, said: “This, people, (is) how life works. Opportunity, with a splash of luck. Well-deserved, Zoe.”
Still, there are naysayers.
A TikTok user with the account name cheeseburger said: “no hate intended. i’m genuinely confused. what did she do to deserve these opportunities?”
Some took potshots at AirAsia.
“Maybe if u will improve ur system & not makes us CHANGE flights FOR 3 TIMES, i will book the premium seat too,” commented TikTok user mira.